The question: Recently, after a relationship ended, I discovered I was pregnant (currently 27 weeks). After the initial shock wore off, my ex was supportive. However, he has since rekindled a romance with a previous flame who will apparently “not approve” of him playing a father role to his daughter. Is it unreasonable to be angry or hurt that the father of my child is choosing an old flame over his own child? I do not want him back – but he is a competent professional who I believe would be a wonderful parent. Should I just accept that “financial parenting” is the most he can muster up right now? I should add that the neither the old/new flame or his friends and family knows he is going to be a dad.
The answer: First off, I want to say to you, your ex-boyfriend and your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend: being a father is not a “role” you play. It’s a thing that you are until the day you die – and beyond.
Your ex-boyfriend is going to be the father of your child until the sun supernovas, basically. I feel so strongly about this I’m going to get biblical on your collective posteriors: your ex-boyfriend begat your daughter, and the sooner you all wrap your heads around that, the better.
It’s a fact you can’t turn your back on. You could try, but you’d fail. The girl currently taking shape in your uterus will one day want to: 1) know who her father is; 2) spend time with him; 3) have her shoelaces tied, bandages applied, be dropped off and picked up at school, be taken to the doctor and maybe even the emergency room, be hugged and consoled when her pet dies, have things explained – like how flowers grow and who would win in a battle between Godzilla and a T-Rex.
To be “fathered,” basically: watched over, taken care of and worried about.
(I’ve said it before but it’s always bugged me that the verb “to mother” means “to nurture, care for, and look after,” whereas the verb “to father” means basically “to inseminate.”)
What kind of man turns his back on that because he assumes – doesn’t even know for a fact – his new girlfriend wouldn’t approve?
I’m touched by your willingness to take on the mantle of single mom-dom. My hat’s off to single moms (and dads) everywhere. When the kids were little and I was a stay-at-home dad, sometimes my wife would come through that door just as I was about to lose it: she’d quickly slip out of her suit and into her sweats and I’d flop, exhausted, into bed. I can’t imagine having kids without someone to hand them off to, and you may find yourself needing a break from time to time, and why shouldn’t he be the one to take her off your hands once in a while?
Sit your ex down. Explain to him, since he doesn’t seem to understand, that, yes, being a father means being an ATM machine to both you and his kid – but also so much more.
Tell him he should start by handing out cigars and telling everyone he is very proud to announce he is about to become a father, and that although the two of you have split up he is very much looking forward to being part of his daughter’s life.
Then work out some sort of schedule or agreement with him you can both live with.
And have we talked about money yet? Oh, he’ll be shelling out money. Find a reasonable amount you can both live with. Then double it. Then triple that. Then … well, you get the idea. Being a dad is like opening your wallet in a windstorm and watching the cash fly out. I’m glad your ex is a successful professional. Maybe your daughter will go to private school!
If none of that works and he continues on the path he’s on, well, sad to say, it may be time to grab the Yellow Pages, look under “lawyers – family.” If he continues categorically to refuse to father your child, he can be compelled to by law.
So what if his former/future ex squawks? Dollars to doughnuts she’ll be out of the picture before your daughter’s out of diapers.
Remember, in the words of Don Corleone from The Godfather: “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” And whether your ex-boyfriend realizes it or wants to deal with it or not, the girl you’re going to give birth to in a couple of months is his family.
What am I supposed to do now?
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